The Best Writing Advice I REALLY Don’t Feel Qualified to Give! (Mid-list Edition)

Hey everyone,

Wow! So people seem to really love the writing advice that I posted a few days ago. I want to give an extra big THANK YOU to everyone who reached out to me. There has been more than a little twirling here at Casa de Marni.

And then I realized something very important…

ALL of my advice was geared for aspiring authors. It’s the stuff that I wish someone had told me when I was starting out. I wouldn’t have shared this post if I didn’t think it was still applicable, but…each level of publishing has its own unique challenges. And I want to take a crack at some of the pressing issues that my author friends are dealing with right now.

So here’s The Best Writing Advice I REALLY Don’t Feel Qualified to Give… (The Mid-list Edition.)

1. Accept that most days your books will feel pretty irrelevant.

If someone (*cough* the nice neighborhood barista *cough*) says, “Uh…yeah! I think I’ve heard of your book!” there’s a small part of your brain that begins to shriek…

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But it’s okay! Let’s face it, flying under the radar might even be for the best. If they had read your book they might expect you to, y’know…speak in complete sentences.

And before I have coffee, this is my idea of witty banter…

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It’s not pretty, friends. It’s just not.

2. You will never master ALL the social media tools.

Facebook. Twitter. Instagram. Tumblr. YouTube. Goodreads. Pinterest. Amazon Author Central. Book trailers. Giveaways. Blogging.

Just listing them probably makes you feel guilty.

Especially since you’re supposed to keep up on popular culture, too. Jennifer Lawrence gets a haircut? You’ve seen it. Mindy Kaling gives an interview? You’ve read it.

You spend an eternity trying to prove yourself as a sparkling conversationist in 140 characters or less…only to make an enormous grammatical gaffe. Then you rush to delete the tweet, except someone has already “favorited” it.

So…you debate sending out a repeat tweet that fixes the mistake or pretending to be charmingly blasé about the whole thing.

Oh that? HAHAHAHA…I was distracted by pictures of Benedict Cumberbatch.

Then you post the pics because obviously he will fix everything for you.

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The crazy part is that ALL of this is supposed to look effortless. You’re supposed to have .gifs for any occasion, but it shouldn’t take time. Obviously, this is the reason you’re a mid-lister. If only you spent this much energy on your writing you would be a New York Times Bestseller!

At least, that’s what the majority of your family members will tell you.

Except here’s the annoying truth: Social media expectations will never disappear, especially in an age when author outreach is generally considered the most powerful form of promotion. What’s worse, your image is one of the few things in this industry that you can pretend to control. Book deals, marketing strategies, movie options…you have no say in these things.

Heck, even the next book deal is out of your hands!

So you have to find a way to balance social media duties with writing deadlines and, hopefully, a personal life.

If you figure out how to do this, please let me know. I tend to update madly for a few days and then become so overwhelmed that I start binge-watching TV shows on Hulu.

3. Don’t buy into your own image.

You aren’t the person you portray on social media. There are certain things you should never make public because nerd rage is a very real thing.

The fastest way to activate it is to say that you don’t get what’s so special about Firefly.

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Sometimes your sense of public and private will become blurry. Case in point: I was once told that I didn’t sound as awkward in my blog posts as I claimed to be in real life.

That took me aback for a second. And then I realized…yeah, you’re right! Because I don’t always want to publicize my screw-ups and mistakes. In fact, sometimes I get downright uncomfortable posting about my life. There was one night during my semester abroad in Australia when I experienced something incredible, mystical, borderline spiritual, and I instantly thought, “This would make a great blog post!” I promised myself right then and there that I wouldn’t treat my life as blog post fodder.

I’ve broken that pledge more times than I would like to admit.

So I’m going to repeat this point–for myself, mostly–your life is NOT defined by your online presence.

4. Your friends will not always want to pimp your book stuff.

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You don’t want to retweet everything they do either, right? So don’t start blog posts with the expectation that every one of your witty, clever, effortlessly media-savvy friends will reblog, repost, or regurgitate the advice you thought sounded smart when you wrote it at 2am.

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This being the notable exception. Right guys?!

5. Accept that there WILL be times when you come across as desperate.

At some point, you will offer to mention your friend’s book in the comment section of a vlogbrothers YouTube video…if they’ll do the same for you. Or maybe you’ll create Wikipedia pages for each other!

All the while you’ll pretend that it doesn’t look like this…

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Same goes for Amazon/Goodreads/Audible reviews. We’ve all been there. It’s inevitable. Someday you will see strangers working on library computers and you’ll be tempted to ask them to give your work five stars.

You won’t bother them, of course. But mostly because the library is your second home and you don’t want the very nice librarians to physically escort you out.

6. You will get really, REALLY tired of hearing about John Green.

Actually, Laurie Halse Anderson did a brilliant job addressing this here! SPOILER ALERT: Her frustration isn’t with John Green. You should read it. Frankly, you should read everything she says because she’s a unicorn.

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I promised to stop calling her that though, so let’s keep it between us.

I’m sure John Green is totally fantastic. I just wish that it were possible to have a discussion on YA fiction without spending a solid five minutes on him. It’s not though. Partly because people like me feel the need to discuss his influence here.

*Shakes fist at self*

7. You’ll be tempted to become controversial.

I think one of the hardest parts about being a mid-lister is that you can catch glimpses at bestsellerdom and you think, “Man, if I networked to my highest potential, that could be me!” Then you realize that if you spent that much time voicing your opinions, inevitably something incredibly stupid will slip out. Being controversial suddenly sounds like a silver bullet.

If I mention Author X loudly enough, it will get me attention!

This is how good people become trolls.

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(And yes, I am fully aware that including #6 might make me a hypocrite. Just because I’m giving this advice doesn’t mean I always know how to take it. Should I have skipped #6 entirely? At what point does discussing a controversial issue become link-bait or trolling? I honestly don’t know. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section!)

8. Bullying is very real. And it sucks.

The writing community is an incredible place that includes the warmest, smartest, most fiercely loyal people I’ve had the good fortune to meet. And I’d like to point out that I’m not just talking about authors here. Editors, agents, reviewers, bloggers, librarians, conference coordinators…the passion, dedication, and heart that I’ve seen from all of these people, it’s incredible.

But there is still plenty of behind-the-scenes bullying that takes place every day.

Genre-bashing is nothing new, but somehow when it comes from inside the community it feels a billion times worse. Sometimes professional jealousy gets the best of people. It’s hard not to see it as a competition. As I mentioned in my other post, we’ve pretty much been trained to believe that there are a limited number of spaces available and that for us to reach our full potential, we’ll have to beat out somebody else. Publishing doesn’t actually work that way though. Your friend’s glorious, oh-my-freaking-god, seven figure book deal doesn’t have anything to do with the manuscript you’ve got on submission. The best course of action (which is excruciatingly hard sometimes!) is to keep your eyes on your own page.

9. You will survive bad reviews.

That said, I’ll never forget seeing my debut novel described as, “The devil’s way of poisoning young minds.” What confused me most was receiving 3/5 stars from that same reviewer!

To this day, I’m baffled.

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Then again, I know someone who received a 3/10 from a reader who said that a perfect score was The Holy Bible. I’m not sure how that compares to, y’know…a romance novel. All that begetting could be a little steamy, I suppose.

The surest way to maintain your sanity is to laugh your way through it. Or maybe that’s just my technique. Here’s a solid pro tip though: NEVER confront the reviewer.

Even when it hurts. Even when you have to call up your friend to ask if they secretly think your book sucks too. Even when you think that there’s been a slight misunderstanding that could totally be cleared up with a tweet…

If someone shares a negative review to you, either say nothing or thank them for taking the time to read your work. Then step away from the laptop.

Here’s what you do next: Remind yourself that book bloggers are made of awesome. Reviewers are people who care so passionate about books that they can’t wait to tell the whole world about the one they just read! That’s amazing!

There shouldn’t be conflict between authors and reviewers. We should be holding hands while cartoon birds flit above us and daffodils burst into full bloom. We should be so sickeningly cute that everyone outside the writing community is disgusted by our unwavering adoration of each other.

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I’m going to hazard a guess as to why that’s not actually the case.

Just because I love reviewers doesn’t mean I can read their work.

In fact, I can’t.

I’ve learned that I don’t trust myself with reviews, even glowingly awesome ones. They make me feel great for a few seconds, and then suddenly the project in front of me looks extra crappy. And yeah, I’ve been known to obsess over a particularly bad review for a few days. The way I see it, no matter how many stars I’m given, it interferes with my productivity.

I really wish I could read reviews without messing up my head. I don’t blame that on the bloggers. I also don’t blame my inability to listen to the audiobook version of my novels on the narrators. They are awesome. I am the one who panics over hearing my words said aloud.

And you know what? THAT’S OKAY.

I am a firm believer in doing what you have to do to protect your mental health. If a visit to Goodreads could activate some kind of emotional time-bomb inside you, don’t go there.

If you can read a review and think, “Oh wow! That’s such an interesting point. I’m going to make sure that I avoid that mistake in my next book!”…well, that’s awesome. Then it’s a real opportunity for growth and improvement.

My recommendation is to get a review/rejection buddy who will shower you with .gifs to get you through the hard times. And to know that avoiding reviews doesn’t make you weak. It doesn’t mean you need to toughen up. It means that you are taking your mental health seriously.

In this profession that’s an incredibly wise thing to do.

10. Please remember that you’re awesome.

It’s shockingly easy to forget that once upon a time, this was the dream. Maybe because now it feels like we spend most of our energy simply trying to stay relevant instead of writing. 

But the truth is that you did something awesome. You wrote a book. And against all the odds, you even got it published. That is an accomplishment that nobody can take away from you!

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Even Ron Swanson wants to celebrate with you.

So hang in there, fellow mid-listers!

Awkwardly yours,

Marni

P.S. If this was useful to you, please let me know! I’m willing to post writing advice here every Monday if that’s something people seem interested in reading. So feel free to leave a comment here…or on my FB author page…or you could send a tweet…basically, unless you want to use Morse Code, I should be able to get your message!

The Best Writing Advice I Don’t Feel Qualified to Give…

Hey everyone,

So…it’s really weird being asked to give writing advice. I instantly want to say this…

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Fun fact: Nearly every writer I know (myself included) deals with imposter syndrome. Sadly, that does not mean we buy ridiculous outfits from thrift shops and pretend to be the reigning monarch of Khazibekustanzia. It means that we stare at the laptop screen and wait to read an email that says…

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Most writers spend most of their time thinking that they mostly suck at writing.

We tend to believe that everyone else has it figured out and that at some point (if we can just crack the NYT bestseller list!) then we’ll also feel like extra special unicorns. Except it doesn’t actually work that way. We just go right on doubting ourselves.

So why am I sharing this? It’s not, y’know…inspirational.

Except…it kind of is.

Hear me out, okay?

See, young aspiring authors tend to tell me that they’re scared to write a novel because they don’t think it will be all that great. It might even suck. Then they would have to admit that maybe they aren’t cut out for a career in publishing and…

Every. Published. Author. Feels. This. Way.

I’m not kidding.

But if we hadn’t forced ourselves to sit down and write–even when it sounded stilted and awkward and awful and repetitive and…you get my point–then we’d still be exactly where you are now.

So here is the advice that I in no way feel qualified to give you:

1. Write.

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If you want to write…then do it. Don’t sit around waiting for someone else to tell you that you should. Most people aren’t all that encouraging of a career in the arts. Don’t let that stop you from telling the story that you love.

2. Write for yourself.

Don’t write for a bestseller list. Don’t write a dragon-unicorn-zombie love triangle because you think it’s going to be the next big thing. I like to remind my friends that if the writing doesn’t make you crazy, the publishing industry will. Chasing a popular trend will only exacerbate that by a billion.

3. Accept that not everyone will like what you’ve written.

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Rejection is a huge part of this industry. I have some tremendously talented friends who have written heart-breakingly brilliant books…and they’ve been rejected by publishers. It’s not just publishers who will do the rejecting either. Everyone is a critic. This includes family, friends, teachers, and mentors. The trick is to find a select few people who can appreciate your writing style. If someone tries to make you sound like somebody else, ignore everything they tell you. 

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You might not want to say this out-loud though…

4. Try to accept what you have written.

It doesn’t have to be The Greatest Novel In The History of Novels. A dragon-unicorn-zombie love triangle doesn’t have to be a metaphor for anything.

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And yeah, it might suck. You might want to bash your head against a keyboard when you so much as think about that stupid book. That’s okay too. This isn’t baseball. An umpire isn’t going to yell, “You’re out!” if you write three less-than-stellar manuscripts. Nobody can bench you from writing except yourself.

5. Edit your work.

Let me be clear: YOU need to edit your work. Don’t just hand it off to a parent/teacher/friend/agent/paid consultant because you’re bored and editing is the worst. Nobody knows your book the way that you do. They can’t. Which is why you need to let your inner critic go to town before you hand it over to anyone.

6. Make friends within the writing community.

Not everyone understands our desire to spend time with people who don’t technically exist. So it’s incredibly liberating when you find someone who doesn’t find it weird that you want to know how to, oh I dunno, get away with muuuurder!

That’s right:

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It’s okay to form this community online. We’re a really nice group of weirdos.

I haven’t so much as high-fived some of my very best friends. What can I say? A bunch of them live on the opposite side of the country, which means getting together for coffee isn’t easy. Typing instead of talking in no way invalidates our friendship. In fact, I highly recommend following your favorite authors on Twitter. Authors tend to post fascinating articles on a whole range of subjects, especially on gender, race, sexuality, and psychology. It’s an easy way to find out more about the writing industry and to engage with people you admire.

7. Please, please protect your mental/emotional well-being.

Mental health should not be taken for granted. Ever. Studies from Sweden have shown that writers have up to a 50% higher chance of suicide than non-writer people. (I learned this from Natalie Whipples’ blog. She wrote an amazing set of writing tips that you should definitely check out here!) I admit, I worry the most about teenage writers for the simple reason that high school creates a false sense of competition. The “best” in the class is the person who hands in assignments to a teacher’s liking. The “best” in the school is most likely to be the person who does well on standardized tests.

These things have absolutely no bearing on the publishing world, yet it is incredibly hard not to cling to them when adults in positions of authority insist that grades/exams/essays will determine your college path, and thereby, your future.

What makes this situation so dangerous? When there is no one specific person you have to please, it’s easy to feel lost. It can also make some people strike out in an attempt to recreate a sense of hierarchy. How can you write a romance if you’ve never had one? What makes your work different from alllll the other dystopian/fantasy/mystery, etc. books out there? Why would anyone want to read that?!?

If someone says stuff like this to you--don’t walk, run to the nearest exit.

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An essential part of protecting your mental health is maintaining a non-toxic writing environment.

8. Try not to get too far ahead of yourself.

Don’t worry about getting an agent when you are halfway through the project. You have much bigger things on your plate, like creating a satisfying ending. I’ve come to realize that my least favorite part of the writing process tends to be the one I’m in. When I’m writing, I daydream about editing. When I’m editing, I fantasize about publishing contracts. When I’m on submission, I imagine book covers and brilliant ad campaigns. When I’m in promotion mode, I realize that it’s been forever since I wrote more than a blog post and what if I suck at it now?!

One good thing I can say for this writing cycle is that it keeps me motivated. It also helps that I’m only thinking one step ahead. If you haven’t finished writing, don’t start researching agents. You might find someone you think would be a great fit, only to become frustrated with the two-thirds of a novel that still requires an ending, not to mention a boatload of editing.

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9. Remember that you’re doing something awesome!

You are creating something entirely from your own mind. It just doesn’t get any cooler than that.

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Heck yeah, you can make things levitate!

In fact, you can even make this happen:

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So is the stress, frustration, panic, heart-breaking rejection and general emotional turmoil worth it?

Um…in a word?

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Seriously, guys.

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Awkwardly yours,

Marni

AWKWARDLY EVER AFTER is here!

Hey everyone!

I debated playing an April Fool’s prank, but…the truth is so much more exciting! I just received the Advanced Reader Copies (ARCs) of AWKWARDLY EVER AFTER!

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Okay, I admit it. I probably reacted more like this…

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It just looks so beautiful! The wonderful people at KTeen really knocked it out of the park with the cover and…why don’t I just show you what I mean?

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*FLAILS ARMS* *HAPPY DANCES* *BLASTS CONFETTI*

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I love it so much I’m actually tearing up right now. I think it just hit me that this is goodbye to all my Smith High School friends. I feel so blessed that KTeen gave me the opportunity to say goodbye to my faithful companions. I’m going to miss each and every one of them.

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I’m never going to let you go. Never. NEVER!!!!!

This book is a love letter. Not just for my characters, but for all my fans. Thank you!

Thank you for reading my books. Thank you for handing them to your friends. Thank you for geeking out with me. Thank you for your letters/emails/tweets of encouragement. Thank you for believing in me.

I am so ridiculously lucky to have your support. It’s not something I will ever take for granted.

Let me put it this way…

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Also…

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And…

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AWKWARDLY EVER AFTER will be released on June 24th! You can preorder it here or you can try to win an Advanced Reader Copy in one of the giveaways that I’ll soon be running. OR you could do both!

Either way…

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Awkwardly yours,

Marni

P.S. I will be sharing more photos and fun times on my Facebook author page! You should totally check it out!

Overloaded with Awesome!

Hey everyone!

I woke up this morning with an incredibly handsome man in my bed.

Okay, yes, I left my door ajar and my housemate’s cat, Hamlet, seized the opportunity for a snuggle. I looked from him to my bedspread and when I didn’t find cat vomit on it I knew that today really was going to be an absolutely awesome day!

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“I’d NEVER puke on your bed, Marni. Not accidentally, at least….”

In fact, I’ve been having a really great week!

I spoke on a panel at the Lewis & Clark Gender Symposium!

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The topic: Frenzied Fangirling: Gender, Literature, and the Young Adult Novel. 

My Partners-in-crime: Lisa Burstein, Lauren Furnish, and Diana Weiner Rosengard.

The outcome: An afternoon of awesome!

Then I disappeared into my writing cave, emerging only for (drumroll, please)…adventure!

Basically,  I spent a whole day with my friend chasing waterfalls.

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This is the view from Crown Point, Oregon. Our first stop on the journey!

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Horsetail falls!

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So. Freaking. Beautiful.

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This is…I don’t even know. There were so many gorgeous waterfalls! It stole my breath away.

Speaking of theft…it turns out my great-grandfather was a total con man! My aunt is diving into our genealogy and has been regaling me with tales of his less-than-legal dealings. I guess he was kicked out of Mexico for pretending to be royalty.

I like to think this is where I get my love of the absurd.

BUT THE BIGGEST NEWS IS…

I have a new literary agent! I’m now working with Shannon Hassan at the Marsal Lyon Literary Agency and I couldn’t be more excited! She’s absolutely wonderful.

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^—This is Shannon. You can read more about her by going here!

Speaking of Shannon, I just emailed her my new book! I don’t want to reveal too much about it, but I can tell you that this is the first time I’ve finished a project and immediately wanted to spend more time in that character’s head.

So I think that’s a very good sign!

And on that note, I’m going to herd the dust bunnies in my room.

*twirls happily with broom*

Awkwardly yours,

Marni

Houston, We’ve Got a Problem (RWA, Please Fix This!)

Hey everyone,

So yesterday I received the following email from the Romance Writers of America:

Dear Marni Bates,

Due to the failure to obtain the minimum number of entries (5 percent of total contest entries) required by the contest entry deadline, the Young Adult Romance category of the 2014 RITA® Contest has been canceled.

I’m not going to lie, I’m really disappointed.

Awards are important. And I’ve spent the past hour staring at my screen trying to figure out how to discuss them without coming across as narcissistic. Here’s a sad truth: It requires bravery for a female author to say that she believes her work to be worthy of consideration. It’s a whole new level of scary. It’s the kind of statement that you instantly want to take back before somebody says, “You aren’t a real writer! Your stories are light fluffy things of absolutely no consequence!” because that would make you want to crawl up into a very tight ball in the back of your closet.

Which is why I still feel obligated to preface this post with something self-depreciating.

Not that I expected to be nominated…

Not that I had a shot at reaching the finals…

I’m mostly disappointed that so many of my peers won’t get the recognition they deserve…

And yes, I absolutely believe that gender plays a large role in this. If you want to read an amazing article on what it’s like to be a female YA author, I highly recommend this piece by Sarah Rees Brennan. It’s spot on.

Here’s a small excerpt from her article:

Common Responses To Female Authors Promoting Themselves I Have Seen, Over and Over Again.

“Why do you think you are so great? You are not so great.” (By promoting yourself/talking about yourself or your work, you indicate that you do think you, and/or your work, has some value, and there is so much pushback, conscious and unconscious, to that.)

“Don’t reblog fan graphics/talk about your characters/talk about your MALE characters (what do you think you are, some sort of harlot?)/be so smug about your books as if you think they might be any good. It makes it seem like you think you’re so great!”

“Do you expect PRAISE?” (I don’t! I never do. Most ladies I know don’t, being accustomed to expecting constant negativity. But it would be nice if people didn’t talk about praise as if it is some incredible, celestial prize that a women should never even dare to dream of getting, and the very idea of them getting it is to be scorned.)

“She’s writing romance and that’s girly and it sucks./She’s writing YA and that’s girly and it sucks./She’s writing literature and men write it better and she sucks./She’s writing about a girl and girls are annoying/shallow/not literature.”

So I repeat: Awards are important. Why? It’s a source of validation. And for a whole bunch of us, it means that we will feel valued instead of dismissed. Especially if you write books that end with a happily ever after.
Now I will always love the Romance Writers of America. I’ve met so many unbelievably talented people through that organization. My life is a hundred thousand times more awesome because of the friendships that have formed, too!
But they have made a huge mistake.
The Young Adult community within the RWA first began to feel alienated last year when the organization decided that all books in that category must “focus primarily on the romantic relationship between two adolescents.”
Here’s the problem: YA is all about coming of age. It’s about figuring out your own identity at a time in life where everyone has an opinion about your future. And yes, YA protagonists often navigate complicated romantic relationships, but the happily ever after is usually built on the character’s ability to know what they believe in. Young Adult fiction can also mean just about anything. Historical. Suspense. Horror. Sci-fi. Contemporary. Humor. Drama. There are YA books that include all of those elements…and have a romance too!
So here is the position that most YA writers found themselves in. Do I really want to spend fifty bucks when I’m pretty sure my book is going to be instantly disqualified? Do I want to feel guilty about focusing more on the growth of a primary character instead of an overarching romance?
And for a bunch of people the answer to that was a resounding, “Oh, hell no!” Some of my friends are going to leave the organization because they feel so frustrated/alienated by these policy changes.
Now that whole category has been eliminated.
I know you might be sick of hearing this, but…AWARDS ARE IMPORTANT!
This community is important! This is our refuge when the rest of the world tells us that we are girly and that we suck. So I hope the RWA will remove the problematic language and consider opening the category to late submissions.
I’d love to hear your opinions!
~Marni

Marni’s Pirates & Plagiarists Playlist

Hey everyone,

So a whole bunch of my writer friends are dealing with online piracy right now.

Actually, that’s misleading. ALL of my author friends are dealing with it. All of the time.

And yes, I’m reporting stolen copies of my books too.

I could rant about how shitty it is to have your hard work stolen. And I could point out that authors do not rake in the kind of money you might imagine that we do. Seriously. If we are lucky enough to get an advance on royalties from our publisher (this is by no means a given!) that money is instantly earmarked for paying the bills. Many authors won’t see a single penny of royalty money even a year after the release date.

Which means that if you want an author to keep writing you should seriously consider, y’know…buying their books.

Just a thought.

But I’m going to try to let my Pirates & Plagiarists Playlist do the speaking for me.

*These songs include swearing. So if that offends you, I’d suggest skipping them!

1. *Sweet As Whole ~ Sara Bareilles

Let’s be real. That’s what we’re thinking.

2. *I Hate Everyone ~ Go Set Go

Self-explanatory.

3. Don’t Ask Me ~ OK Go

Especially if you are directly confronting someone who has stolen your work. I tend to avoid doing that. I just…don’t even want to go near it.

4. My Rights Versus Yours ~ The New Pornographers.

Yep. I’m getting punny.

5. *Sh*t Song ~ Kate Nash

I listen to this on repeat when I’m really mad.

6. Mean ~ Taylor Swift

The title says it all.

7. Brave ~ Sara Bareilles

Let the words fall out…

8. Do My Thing ~ Estelle

*dances happily*

9. Strip Me ~ Natasha Bedingfield

I love this song. I think it’s a great reminder that no pirate or plagiarist can ever steal our voice. They can only temporarily hijack our words.

And finally…

10. Keep Your Head Up ~ Andy Grammer

At the end of the day, this is still the best job in the whole freaking world. So we’ve got that going for us!

Feel free to suggest other songs! I’m always interested in listening to new music!

Awkwardly yours,

Marni

Moving on. Moving up. Moving…OUCH!

Hey everyone,

So something pretty awesome happened yesterday.

I turned in my edits for the last book in my Smith High series!

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I looked something like this when I sent it back to my editor, Alicia Condon.

I’m not entirely sure what I’m allowed to share about the final book. I’ve seen the cover and let’s just say I got all mushy in the Dulles airport. And then I impressed a whole bunch of travelers with my happy dance.

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Hmm…maybe “impressed” isn’t the right word. 

So here is what I can tell you!

1. It’s called Awkwardly Ever After.

2. It’s prom time at Smith High School. So, of course, Mackenzie and (name redacted) are shocked when (name redacted) insists on (REDACTED!)…

3. It answers a whole bunch of questions that you’ve had since Awkward.

And I can tell you that it was an absolute pleasure to write.

It’s also rather strange for me to…move on.

I mean, these characters have been with me for over four years. We’ve chatted on four different continents, travelled to seven countries, and visited countless cities together. They’ve seen me through the good, the bad, and the “meh” times.

We’ve pulled all-nighters together. Confided our secrets to each other. Exchanged tons of advice.

And yes, I know that Mackenzie, Logan, Jane, Scott, Chelsea, Houston, Nick, Holly, Corey, Tim, Melanie, Isobel, Sam, Dylan, Miles, Spencer, Ben, Liz, Amy, Lisa Anne, Chris, Alex, and let’s not forget Fake and Bake, aren’t strictly speaking real.

But they are very real to me.

So writing Awkwardly Ever After felt like I was hugging my friends goodbye.

In a good way.

It’s kind of hard to explain. I guess, it’s like heading to college. You know you’ll miss all your high school friends, but there are going to be tons of new adventures ahead! Really freaking awesome ones!

And I’m completely psyched for the next stage of my journey to begin!

Speaking of which…

I’m moving to Portland, Oregon!

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I’ve booked my flight and everything! I will officially be sharing an adorable house with two amazing housemates on November 23rd!

So right now I’m packing up my apartment in Los Angeles and pretending to be an adult. Pro tip: It’s cheapest to ship boxes of books media rate through the post office. Turns out, there is a whole lot I have yet to learn about adulthood.

Luckily, I have friends in Portland who are willing to brave Ikea with me!

And teach me how to drive a car.

And take last minute road trips with me…

It’s going to be fun.

In the wake of all that change, you might think I’d want to avoid making, y’know, permanent life decisions.

But right after I clicked “Send” on Awkwardly Ever After, I went to a tattoo parlor with my friends…

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Fun fact: I was terrified.

I’ve wanted a small tattoo on my foot for years. During my semester abroad in Australia, I penned it with a sharpie every time a lecture failed to capture my interest.

But I’m a total wimp when it comes to pain, so I never thought I’d ever actually do it!

I thought any tattoo expedition would quickly turn into this:

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Everyone was incredibly patient with me. The tattoo artist said that it wouldn’t take long and that it wouldn’t hurt much.

I didn’t believe him.

The worst pain I’ve ever experienced was a bout of seasickness in Australia that lasted for hours. And I’d been deadly serious when I’d asked for somebody–ANYBODY–to shoot me with a tranquilizer gun.

So I was bracing myself for the possibility that I’d spend the rest of my life with a small black “A” on my foot, when the tattoo artist finally began.

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I burst out laughing.

It barely hurt.

Seriously. I think I might have gritted my teeth once. That’s it. At times, it almost felt good. Although that might have something to do with all the adrenaline pumping through my system.

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Oh my god. I can’t believe I did it! I DID IT!!!

Here’s a close up:

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I looked at hundreds of different fonts before I decided to use my own handwriting. I think it adds a personal touch. And I absolutely love it!

On that note…it’s time to put my Awkward foot forward and become acquainted with my newest batch of fictional besties.

I think you guys are going to love them!

Awkwardly yours,

Marni

The Truth About The Las Vegas Book Fest… (Bum. Bum. BUUUUUUMMM!)

Hey everyone,

Being an author can be pretty lonely. We spend most of our time staring at our laptop screens, trying to listen to the little voices in our heads. And that’s on a good day. On a bad day, the voices aren’t there and we stare aimlessly at the wall before trying to eat the entire contents of our fridge.

Or maybe that’s just me.

Regardless, I think the solitary nature of the job is part of what makes our conferences so much fun.

Sure, we might occasionally wonder this…

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And we definitely think this…tumblr_inline_mu982h5YZy1rhignx

But that’s okay!

In fact, I think that’s a huge part of the fun! When I am surrounded by other writers I don’t worry quite as much about saying the right thing. I can debate the virtue of maiming versus killing teenagers without clarifying after every sentence that it’s for a novel. We trade embarrassing stories and bust a move to, well…Bust A Move by Young MC.

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(You’re welcome, Tracy Deebs!)

Because when we all get together…well…

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I have so many highlights from the Vegas Valley Book Festival. One of which was getting Vivi Barnes to say, “My milkshake brings all the boys to the yard.”

Priceless.

I loved wearing a sparkly dress to our prom!

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Here I am with Veronica Wolff and Stacey Kade! (Pssst….you should totally buy their books!)

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Stacey Jay is hugging the floofy part of my dress! Oh, and she is ridiculously good at dancing. Just in case you were wondering.

And that’s not all…

I had a blast speaking on the Choosing the Real Me panel with a whole bunch of crazy talented people. (Lisa Burstein, Ann Stampler, Varian Johnson, Nicole McInnes, Carrie Mesrobian, Daria Snadowsky, and the delightfully wicked Kasie West.)

I’m going to use the “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” excuse here. Let’s just say that as we were leaving the stage, Carrie called me the Ron Weasley of the panel.

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It went something like that.

Part of me is tempted to end the post here with a quick thank you to Crystal Perkins for putting all of this amazingness together. Because truthfully, I don’t know how to describe the overwhelming amount of heart I see in these authors. But I’m going to try.

When Katie McGarry spoke about foster kids aging out of the system, you could feel it. You could see both her frustration and her steely determination to write those stories. To stand on their behalf.

I want you guys to be able to see it for yourselves though. So you should check out Dear Teen Me and read the advice that these authors want to give their teenage selves.

I should warn you: I felt emotionally sucker-punched by what my friends have gone through. I am awed by their strength and their kindness. And by the passion that goes into their work.

I’m going to link Lisa Burstein’s post here with a trigger warning for rape.

You should read what she has to say. Because it’s amazing.

So here are the spectacular authors I met at the Las Vegas Book Festival.

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You know how people say that it gets better after high school? I think everyone in this photo can personally vouch for that!

And now I should get back to writing…

Happy Reading,

Marni

P.S. I am obligated to remind you that NOTABLE is now out in stores and that you should totally buy it. And then you should give copies to all your friends. Maybe post some glowing reviews online…

Or not.

Whatever.

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RELEASING THE CRACKEN! Whoops, I mean…The Chelsea.

Hey everyone,

I hated Chelsea Halloway when I was writing AWKWARD.

Hated. Her. Guts.

She was this perfect blue-eyed beauty who could get anything she wanted with a toss of her hair. The kind of girl who effortlessly flirts with boys instead of stuttering, “H-h-hey! So…that thing was pretty cool, right? No? Um…c-c-catch ya later!”

Basically, she was the anti-Marni.

And I wanted to dismiss her as the mean girl.

Except I couldn’t do that because Logan had dated her. And there was no way Logan would have been sucked in purely by a beautiful face. There had to be more to Chelsea than I initially wanted to see.

More than Mackenzie wanted to see, too.

That thought nagged at me the whole time I wrote INVISIBLE. For some reason, Mackenzie brought out the worst in Chelsea.

But that didn’t mean Jane couldn’t see a different side of her.

By the time I finished INVISIBLE there was no doubt in my mind: I had to tell Chelsea’s side of the story.

And yes, I stared outside at the snow in Oregon while I listened to Chelsea’s rants…

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I also collaged like a crazy person.

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Here’s the truth: I became a crazy person.

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Nobody sane has hair like this. Nobody.

I doodled potential plot points…

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I created a playlist for Chelsea…

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And I ate this celebratory sushi three months later when I finished my first draft!

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I swooned over the cover KTeen created for NOTABLE. In fact, I ran around L.A. snapping photos with the coverflats they sent me!

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It’s just so pretty!

My neighbors weren’t thrilled about the way I beautified some signage.

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But I couldn’t be stopped!

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Chelsea insisted that she deserved a star of her own…

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I even roped Laurie Halse Anderson into geeking out with me!

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Fun fact: Laurie Halse Anderson is the coolest person in the world. She also gives fantastic advice. I would be perfectly happy letting her make all my life decisions. All of them.

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If you had told me when I was writing AWKWARD that Chelsea would steal my heart…I’d have burst out laughing.

But that’s exactly what she did.

The two of us just…clicked. The anti-Marni somehow became my imaginary best friend.

And now she is officially sitting on bookstore shelves!

(Psst! You can buy it from Amazon here!)

You would think that at some point the whole publishing part of this process would become normal. But the truth is that I’m living out my wildest dream. (Okay, the wildest dream that doesn’t include an English manor of some kind. What can I say? I really loved Pride & Prejudice.) Most of the time this job feels like something I hallucinated after pulling an all-nighter with my AP U.S. history textbook.

Frankly, I still can’t believe I got away with some of the things I did to Chelsea.

*Cackles wickedly*

And since I am in Vegas, I had no trouble taking some ridiculous photos for you guys!

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Chelsea wanted to check out The Venetian hotel with me. And then she complained bitterly that I had sent her to Cambodia instead of Venice…or Vegas.

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But I ignored her complaining and decided to practice my spycraft instead…

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Let’s just say that didn’t go quite the way I planned.

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Those are real sharks!

Chelsea and I were informed we had the right to remain silent. But let’s just say that this happened…

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And then this happened…

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I’m kidding, of course!

Even when Chelsea suggests Questionable Life Decisions…this is the craziest I get!

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Marni wasn’t here.

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Okay, so maybe there was a little power-tripping.

But in all seriousness, I want to give a big thank you to everyone who made this book possible. And that absolutely includes all of my amazing readers!

Your tweets/emails/book trailers/Facebook messages/hugs/fanart/book purchases…they mean the world to me.

And just in case you were wondering…

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Love,

Marni

 

The Awkward Adventurer… (Part 1)

Hey everyone,

I’ve learned something important about myself: I suck at blogging when I travel.

Seriously. I’m the worst at it. Every now and then I think, “I should share these adventures with the world!” and then I come up with a reason to put it off.

Which means that now you get the highlight reel from my trip across America!

Where to begin….

LOS ANGELES:

I was too excited to sleep the night before the trip, so I felt like a zombie by the time the shuttle picked me up. And then I met a real zombie!

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Okay, I met an actor who plays a zombie on The Walking Dead. That’s pretty much the same thing, right?

Vincent M. Ward now has a copy of NOTABLE. Chelsea probably doesn’t watch The Walking Dead, but Jane is totally geeking out over this.

Still, I couldn’t wait to trade L.A. in for New Orleans. After weeks of stressing over a new writing project, a change of scenery needed to happen.

There were crazy eyes, my friends. And those crazy eyes were attached to my face. It’s never a good thing when you look into the mirror and say, “Why hello! Don’t you look like a serial killer today!”

So the timing for this adventure couldn’t have been better.

Especially since I stayed in a mansion with two awesome writing buddies: Cecily White and Noelle Pierce.

Yep. A mansion.

Cecily contends that I’m exaggerating about her childhood home.

I think that if water comes from a swan, it’s officially a mansion.

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Right?!

Plus, they have a special scoop for ice cubes. I seriously doubt that even Ice Cube lives in such luxury. These are the kinds of details that I notice after two weeks of self-imposed solitary confinement.

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Luckily, Cecily’s mom seemed to get a kick out of just how much I loved her home. (Especially my bedroom, which included a little step stool so I could reach the four poster bed. So cute!)

I’m not allowed to tell you about everything that happened in New Orleans. The three of us  pretty much swore a blood oath. But I can tell you that we spent most of our time discussing characters and plots and writing deadlines.

Oh, and I went from this

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To this:
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I have always wanted to play with the color of my hair. Always. But even though I have no trouble grabbing a pair of scissors and snipping away at 3am, I could never bring myself to alter the shade. So coloring it red was my way of shaking things up!

The next few days are now a blur of awesome.

I had a MacGyver moment that involved rigging up my computer charger at the coffee shop with the help of my shoe.

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I went to an incredible restaurant called Muriel’s with the girls. There were all these creepy old photos and paintings on the walls and I couldn’t shake the feeling that at any minute they might decide to start haunting me.

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Note the super creepy painting behind me…

Here are some other cool photos…that could use much better lighting.

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Andrew Jackson: Vampire Hunter.

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Creepy pictures. Such a creepy pictures!

We sang karaoke at a club on Bourbon St. called The Cat’s Meow. And yes, Noelle filmed our rendition of Call Me Maybe. Have I mentioned that Noelle is a wonderful, beautiful person who would never stoop to blackmailing me?

I’ve truly missed both of them ever since I left New Orleans.

Our last big group activity was a visit to Cecily’s old high school. The girls we spoke with were absolutely wonderful. They asked fantastic questions and lingered to chat with us after the official lecture part was over. So we definitely ended on a high note!

WASHINGTON D.C.

I’m so glad I visited my older sister! She shares an adorable apartment with her roommate and the two of them took me to a wonderful Yom Kippur service.

Just for the record: “wonderful” and “service” are not two words that I usually put together.

But the Rabbi discussed the Jewish holiday of repenting misdeeds in a way that was current, political, and non-partisan. I was impressed.

Still, I spent the majority of my time in D.C. acting like a tourist. I woke up early so that I could enjoy an entire day at The Newseum and I still nearly went back for more! The FBI exhibit was super cool…

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Don’t shoot, G-Men!

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So…that’s intense!

And I loved this section of the Berlin Wall!

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Not that Chelsea needs any encouragement to act up!

The next day I went to the International Spy Museum!

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Even the bathroom signs were made of awesome!

I totally geeked out. And I did my very best to memorize as much information from the exhibits as possible. I’m sure some of it will come in handy!

That’s all I’m going to say for now…

In other news…I took Chelsea to see a whole bunch of national monuments.

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I snuggled up to FDR.

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I joked around with Lincoln.
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I practiced my powerful pose of authority with MLK.
And I met an incredible ballerina who agreed to pose with Notable!
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This photo always makes me smile!
Here are some more…
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I totally got into my role of photographer.
But perhaps the best part of my trip to D.C. was actually my ride to the airport. That’s because I was able to catch up with a good friend from high school. Danielle and I laughed and joked all the way to Dulles International and I boarded my flight to Boston with a very happy heart.
But you will have to stay tuned to hear about those adventures!
More later,
Marni